Tower store promotes Iron Range heritage in historic and light-hearted ways

Uffda and Ubetcha offers Iron Range themed items
Uffda and Ubetcha offers Iron Range themed items(kbjr)
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 12:57 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - There’s been a business on this corner of main street in Tower for more than one hundred years. Finnish immigrant Konst Marttila started a candy store and soda fountain in a wood frame building around 1905. After returning from World War Two, his son Walter built a mid-century modern building next door and ran a soda fountain and drug store for nearly 50 years. Now, both buildings are owned by Vicky and Charlie Carlson who are well aware of their history.

This corner of Tower's main street has been home to businesses since at least 1905.
This corner of Tower's main street has been home to businesses since at least 1905.(kbjr)

“Yeah, that’s one thing we both feel passionate about is the history, not only this building and the stories we hear from people enjoying their youth at the Marttila Drug Store plus keeping up on history with the items that we offer.” said Vicky.

One side of the Carlson’s enterprise is an antique store called Ubetcha Antiques. Charlie is an experienced appraiser and keeps new old things coming in constantly.

“We’ve been doing it for quite a few years between both of us and sometimes we have to research items and the values are always changing so we have to keep up.” said Charlie.

The other half of the store is called Uffda Gifts full of things that celebrate Tower-Soudan and the Iron Range.

“Nobody promotes Tower itself or the Iron Range even and actually it was you, Dave, that got me on one of the T shirts that we designed.” said Vicky.

Years ago, I did a news story on the anniversary of Tower setting the state cold record at sixty below. No one at that time was cashing in on the acclaim but this Uffda shirt does now. Keeping the store stocked keeps the Carlsons very busy so Charlie’s father Willard pitches in a lot.

“My dad is doing great, he’s 93 years old and he does a lot for the store. He does a lot of furniture refinishing and builds some small projects.” said Charlie

Last summer, the Carlson uncovered a World War One era Bridgeman’s Ice Cream sign on the side of the old confectionary building. It’s been preserved for the customers who come to them for Range-centric souvenirs.

“People are always looking for that local thing, they want Lake Vermilion ornaments or something catchy about the Iron Range.” said Vicky.

click above for the video version of the story